Renter’s Re-Reform- The 2022 Queen’s Speech and the Private Rented Sector

10th May 2022 Commercial Litigation

On 10 May 2022, Prince Charles stood in for the Queen to give the Queen’s Speech setting out the Johnson government’s planned legislative programme for this Parliament.

Interestingly, although the oral speech made no mention of private renting the briefing document makes specific mention of the Renter’s Reform Bill. This suggests that it is not very much back on the agenda. In the 2021 Queen’s Speech the briefing document made no mention of the Renter’s Reform Bill and had downgraded mention to a general mention of reform of the sector. Notably the 2021 speech also committed to publishing the government’s response to the consultation on getting rid of section 21 before the end of 2021. That consultation closed back in October 2019. The response was not in fact published and still has not appeared.

Anyway, returning to the 2022 speech there is a commitment to a Renter’s Reform Bill again. Some of this is re-tooled from previous years but there are also some commitments that have come in from other areas. So the bill is now intended to:

“Fulfil the manifesto commitments to abolish so-called ‘no fault’ section 21 evictions and strengthen landlords’ rights of possession, delivering on the levelling up mission to halve the number of non-decent rented homes by 2030 and create a rental market that is fairer and more effective for tenants and landlords.”

More specifically it will:

  • Abolish section 21 completely from the Housing Act 1988;
  • Reform possession grounds for landlords;
  • Apply the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector;
  • Introduce a new ombudsman which landlords will need to join;
  • Introduce a new property portal to help landlords understand their obligations and give tenants performance information about them.

The abolition of s21 is something that has been around for a long time. I have commented on it a lot and am not going to add to the general volume of commentary on it here. There has been a certain amount of quietness on this topic from the government and it had been assumed that they might be getting cold feet having realised that this was a much bigger job than they had realised. Apparently, they have now decided to go ahead. The reform of other grounds for possession now also has some more detail. There is mention of toughening the position on ASB which was already expected but there is also mention of toughening the position on repeated arrears which appears to be new.

The statement from the Levelling Up White Paper on applying the Decent Homes Standard to the PRS is mentioned again here. It is not suddenly a good idea due to being mentioned in the Queen’s Speech. Given that the HHSRS is being reformed and that there are also mechanisms to deal with property standards under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and the Environmental Protection Act, I do not see how adding yet another standard takes the PRS forward. It would be better to focus more tightly on enforceability of the current standards than simply adding another one to the mix.

A new Ombudsman for landlords also seems to add little. There is extensive discussion on court reform to make it easier and quicker to use the court service. Energy would surely be better spent on this to enable tenants to deal with issues using existing systems rather than adding a new one. This seems to add a cost on to landlords without actually providing any real benefit to tenants.

The other big new mention is the property portal. This looks a lot like the idea of a property MOT that has already been proposed by others. Actually this may be the most substantial alteration of all. To make it truly effective gas safety certificates and EICRs would need a central database, as would local authority licensing. It would also probably be necessary to allow public access to the rogue landlord database. Doing all of that would create a powerful set of tools to enforce against bad landlords without actually creating the portal at all. It is worth noting that landlord registration is not mentioned at all, despite getting a substantial trail in the discussion leading to the proposed rental reform white paper. However, an online portal could actually end up being a form of online landlord registration if it is going to include performance information on landlords.

It remains to be seen if this Bill will actually appear. It is hardly the first time it has been mentioned and we have seen the concept of rental reform come and go in successive Queen’s Speeches without any real action. Thus far rental reform has done rather more to keep commentators (like me!) busy than it has done for the rented sector. However, this time around it may all be different!

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David Smith is a Partner located in Londonin our Commercial Litigation department

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